Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

One of the many perks from working in a church office is that we share chapel time together every Tuesday morning. It's a time for the staff to come together, hear a devotion, and pray for the needs within our church family. Last week, our guest speaker poured out such a tremendous challenge that it's been "chewing" on me ever since. Let me begin by sharing the text he used:

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love ..." (Ephesians 5:1-2a)

His challenge was two-fold, based on God's Word:
1) Imitate God
2) Live a life of love

If you're like me, you are already thinking one word: IMPOSSIBLE! When I consider my behavior at times, it is far from imitating God. And living a life of love? That's easy when it's people we like - but what about those who have done us wrong? What about people who have been intentional in taking a jab or a stab at our lives, or of those we love?

Sorry, Tina ... I just had to borrow this line from your ever so popular song from years ago because it's a question worthy of answering this morning.

Based on God's Word ... love has EVERYTHING to do with it. Listen to the rest of Ephesians 5:2 ... "just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." At some point in your life ... you must consider that God's love has everything to do with your life and how He wants you to live your life.

It was God's love that gave you life.
It is God's love that gives you each day.
It will be God's love that holds everything together.

And even more than that ...

It was God's love that created you and me with eternity in mind.
It is God's love that saves us and gives us a relationship with Christ ... both now and forevermore.
It will be God's love that lives in us and through us that can make a difference in this crazy mixed up world.

At some point in our lives, we are confronted with God's great love. Maybe it's through a difficult season, or maybe it's through a time of great celebration. God's love often sneaks up on us ... and other times, it pours out like a Georgia thunderstorm.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:9)

The best thing we can do with God's love, friends, is receive it. And upon receiving it, we can freely give it. When we give it, we are acting like Him. We are imitating God. I love that.

Love has everything to do with today. How we live ... how we react. How we respond has everything to do with what we think and believe about God's love for us.

"For God so loved Rhonda." (John 3:16) Go ahead and put your name in there. Think about it today. God SO loves you. I believe He wants us to love Him right back by imitating Him and living a life of His love this very day. His love ... not what we can muster up. His love isn't based on circumstances. His love isn't revolved on how we are treated by others. His love isn't tied to everything working out the way we want it to. His love is based on one thing: The Cross of Jesus Christ.

Next time you hear Tina's song, remind yourself that love has everything to do with it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's Your Sign?

After church, Mike and I headed to Chattanooga to run a couple of errands. As we came down White Oak Mountain toward Ooltewah, there were folks in the median cleaning up trash. Most of them wore the typical neon orange vest, no doubt it's a safety thing and they can be easily spotted. Mike said they were folks doing community time for one thing or another. What I saw next, has been churning around in my spirit for the past few hours. Several of them had on a neon green vest, and on their back it read, "I AM A DRUNK DRIVER."

It got real quiet in the car. After a few minutes, I said, "I am so glad that everything I've ever been ... or done ... isn't printed in bold letters on my back for everyone to see."

Now don't get me wrong. I think those who break the law should be punished. I think there is a price to be paid for crossing the line - especially where someone else's safety is concerned. I am begging folks to not leave nasty comments on my blog on how these citizens deserved it and have that and more coming to them.

For just a few minutes I want you to think ... like I have, about life. If I were to list all the stupid, idiotic things I've done in my life, there wouldn't be enough room here. If I had to make a list of some of the choices I have made that not only hurt me, but hurt someone else ... I'd be more than ashamed of myself all over again. Each one of us, if we were to "wear" the sins we had committed against God or someone else, we might be wearing all kinds of labels.
"I AM A MURDERER." (maybe not physically, but with words ... thoughts that kill)
"I AM A ..."

This list truly does go on and on.

So, what's my point? I am reflecting today and challenge you to do the same about the grace of God that covers our sin. For those who have accepted Christ's gift of salvation and are living in a personal relationship with Him, what you wear on your back is this: "FORGIVEN." Maybe your vest says, "PAID FOR." I'd like mine to read, "FREE IN CHRIST."

Aren't you so thankful that the penalty for every wrong you've done, every poor choice you've made, every blatant sin you have or will commit ... all of it, has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ? GLORY!

"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man (or woman) whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
(Romans 4:7-8)

As God's children, you and I may make some crazy stupid choices that will leave us wearing a neon vest and picking up trash in the median. I hope not. Oh, but the good news is, as God's child, your life ... past, present and future, is being held tightly in His grip. Your transgressions are forgiven. Your sins are covered. What is written on your back was penned by the nail-pierced hand of our Savior.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained throug the law, Christ died for nothing." (Galatians 2:20-21)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

God's Covenant of Peace

I've been awake for a long time. You know how it is when your eyes open wide and hard as you try by keeping them closed, sleep just won't come. The brain is a complicated thing. Even though the body is tired, sometimes the brain just won't rest. It can't shut down. If your life is anything like mine, there is much going on. You're busy with the day to day demands. There's work. There's family. Then there's the things that trouble you ... weigh heavy on you. Maybe things you are wrestling through. Jesus Himself said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble [issues, tough circumstances, trials, burdens]. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

The peace of God. Four days of rain can't wash it away. Headaches and hassles won't overshadow it. Tough situations can't remove it. Difficult people can't squash it. Painful circumstances ... times of fear and doubt won't wipe it out. So, as I've been sitting here, there is one Truth which God has brought to mind that has brought my restless soul a tremendous amount of comfort:

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)

In the same way Christ spoke peace over the wind and waves (Mark 4:41), He speaks peace over our hearts and lives with His unfailing love and compassion. Doesn't that bring you tremendous comfort today? Even if you're not in a hard place - God's unfailing love will NOT be shaken nor will His covenant [binding promise/vow never to be broken] of peace with His kids ever be removed.

Even though I can't sleep ... I choose to REST knowing that God's got my life wrapped tightly in His grip. And yes, my mind is traveling at break neck speed ... but my soul finds great comfort in knowing and believing that His love, peace and compassion for my life will never change ... will always stay the same.

One of my most favorite sayings is, "Where there is peace, God is."

That, friends, gives me great rest for my heart, mind and soul. Maybe tonight, it will give me sleep for this tired body!

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD [Covenant Maker/Promise Keeper God] make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8) Listen to The Message's translation of this promise: At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep, For you, God, have put my life back together.

Oh! What a Savior, gracious to all. Oh! How His blessings round us fall. Gently to comfort, kindly to cheer - sleeping or waking, God is near. (Fanny Crosby)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Question of the Day:

While on vacation this week, I've taken advantage of some extra time to read. Now granted, the stack of books that I'd like to read far outweighs my time to actually sit down and do it. But there is one book that has been calling my name: "The Most Loving Place in Town (Ken Blanchard/Phil Hodges) - A Modern Day Parable for the Church."

It's a real easy book to read and it has given me so much to think about. But tucked away in Chapter 7 was a question that has left my heart stirring: "How does God know you love Him?"

I think the author is so right. Often we focus on how we know God loves us. But if we take the time to turn the question around and be honest with ourselves and God, our answers might just shine some light on our journey with Him and what we may be seeking to do that has NOTHING to do with a genuine/authentic love relationship with God.

Some common answers might be, "I pray" or "I read my Bible" or "I go to church." We could even feel real good about ourselves and say, "I serve Him faithfully." Trust me, I've thought an awful lot about this question since I first read it. How does God know that I love Him ... really love Him? No doubt praying and reading your Bible and staying plugged into the local church will help you know Him more and help you grow in your faith journey ... but that still doesn't answer the question: How does God know you love Him?

The disciple John put ink to Christ's heart about this very thing in chapter 14, verse 15. Here is the answer, friends: "If you love me, you will obey what I command." I especially love The Message's translation: "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you."

There are all kinds of ways that we can obey the Lord. As His child, He has given me His Word and the Holy Spirit to prompt me as I walk through this life. He wants me to obey Him in the big things ... and the little things. Lately, there's an area where He continues to hard press for my obedience and it revolves around forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a journey all by itself. It's not based on anything you feel. Just like love is a choice ... a decision, so is forgiveness. This has been an incredible year on the forgiveness road. Forgiving those who have hurt me or those I love. Just like Christ while on the Cross, I've had to ask God to forgive those who surely didn't have a clue as to what they were doing. And even if I thought they did know ... that was even more reason to forgive. Trust me when I say I've tried to go the other road and it just doesn't work. I can't walk close to the Lord and harbor unforgiveness in my heart. The two just don't mix.

Okay, back to the book. I don't want to spoil it for you in case you decide at some point to read it, but there is one more little saying that's a keeper: Forgiven much, love more.

One more concrete way for God to know that we love Him is by loving each other.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Surely to goodness there is someone you need to forgive. And by forgiving them, you are free to love them. Not based on how you think or feel ... but based on His great love for you that frees you to love and forgive. It really is a beautiful thing. Not always easy and not without a risk.
But I continue to learn that with Christ, all things are possible ... especially forgiveness.

Think about it: How does God know you love Him?